Jeffrey Jensen Arnett University of Maryland College Park
G. S. Hall's (1904) view that adolescence is a period of heightened "storm and stress" is reconsidered in light of contemporary research. The author provides a brief history of the storm-and-stress view and examines 3 key aspects of this view: conflict with parents, mood disruptions, and riskbehavior. In all 3 areas, evidence supports a modified storm-and-stress view that takes into account individual differences and cultural variations. Not all adolescents experience storm and stress, but storm and stress is more likely during adolescence than at other ages. Adolescent storm and stress tends to be lower in traditional cultures than in the West but may increase as globalizationincreases individualism. Similar issues apply to minority cultures in American society. Finally, although the general public is sometimes portrayed by scholars as having a stereotypical view of adolescent storm and stress, both scholars and the general public appear to support a modified storm-and-stress view.
likely to occur than at other ages. I emphasize that there are individual differences amongadolescents in the extent to which they exhibit storm and stress and that there are cultural variations in the pervasiveness of adolescent storm and stress.
Storm and Stress: A Brief History
Hall (1904) was the first to consider the storm-and-stress issue explicitly and formally in relation to adolescent development, but he was not the first in the history of Western thought to remark on theemotional and behavioral distinctiveness of adolescence. Aristotle stated that youth "are heated by Nature as drunken men by wine." Socrates characterized youth as inclined to "contradict their parents" and "tyrannize their teachers." Rousseau relied on a stormy metaphor in describing adolescence: "As the roaring of the waves precedes the tempest, so the murmur of rising passions announces thetumultuous change.... Keep your hand upon the helm," he advised parents, "or all is lost" (Rousseau, 1762/1962, pp. 172-173). Around the time Rousseau was writing, an influential genre of German literature was developing, known as "sturm und drang" literature—roughly translated as "storm and stress." The quintessential work of the genre was Goethe's (1774/1989) The Sorrows of Young Werther, a storyabout a young man who commits suicide in despair over his doomed love for a married woman. There were numerous other stories at the time that depicted youthful anguish and angst. The genre gave rise to popular use of the term "storm and stress," which Hall (1904) adopted a century later when writing his magnum opus on adolescent development. Hall (1904) favored the Lamarckian evolutionary ideas thatwere considered by many prominent thinkers in the early 20th century (Freud and Jung included) to be a better explanation of evolution than Darwin's theory of natural selection. In Lamarck's now-discredited theory, evolution takes place as a result of accumulated experience. Organisms pass on their characteristics from one generation to the next not in the form of genes (which were
early 100years after G. Stanley Hall (1904) proposed that adolescence is inherently a time of storm and stress, his view continues to be addressed by psychologists. For the most part, contemporary psychologists reject the view that adolescent storm and stress is universal and inevitable (e.g., Eccles et al., 1993; Offer & Schonert-Reichl, 1992; Petersen et al., 1993; Steinberg & Levine, 1997). However, thestorm-and-stress view is usually invoked by psychologists only in passing, in the course of addressing some other topic. Rarely has the storm-and-stress view been considered directly, and rarely have its merits and limitations been evaluated in depth. Hall initiated the scientific study of adolescence, and since his time (especially in the past 20 years), research on adolescence has produced a...